Saturday, 25 July 2009

Swine flu

Latest information: 10 October 2009. We received updated advice from our diocese which requests the reintroduction of the common cup. More details here.

Thankfully, for most people infected with swine flu, the symptoms are mild. But as infection rates increase, it's sensible for us to plan how we sustain our ministry to the people of our parish.

We have been asked by the Archbishops of Canterbury and York to make changes in the way we administer Communion. This is because of the swine flu outbreak. The Archbishops are acting on advice from the Department of Health, who wish the Churches to take precautions to limit the spread of disease by not sharing common vessels for food and drink.

The change that is being recommended by the Archbishops is that, for the time being, we discontinue using the shared cup at Communion.

At St Paul's, rather than withdraw communion in both kinds, we have decided to adopt the practice of intinction: that is, the president will personally dip each piece of bread in the wine, before placing it in the hands of each communicant. This is one of the options available to us in the advice we have received.

The Archbishops have also recommended the use of alcohol-based hand gel before the Eucharistic Prayer by those administering Communion, and we will be adopting this practice.

We have also been advised to request that hands are not shaken at the sharing of The Peace.

We realise that these temporary changes are slightly uncomfortable for all of us. Please be assured that the Church of England has always believed that, in case of necessity, Communion may be administered in one kind only. The validity of the Sacrament is in no way affected by this temporary change.

For up to date information about the flu pandemic, how to protect yourself and others and what to do if you feel ill, please visit the National Pandemic Flu service website at For treatment advice call their helpline on 0800 15 13 100.

Now would be a good time to think about neighbours who are vulnerable or who live alone:
  • Check that they know what to do if they feel ill.
  • Consider exchanging phone numbers and contact details for family who might live farther away.
  • Consider offering to be a "flu friend", who could collect medicines if they are needed.
We're praying for all involved in the situation, including those health workers who are particularly busy at this time. We also pray that the Church's message of hope will reach those who are anxious or afraid.